Federal prosecutors in New York City are asking that the jury in R. Kelly’s trial on racketeering and sex trafficking charges be kept anonymous from the public, prosecutors and the defense team during proceedings.
They also want jurors to be partially sequestered because of significant media coverage of the case — and the singer’s alleged history of interfering with legal proceedings.
Kelly, who was indicted in March on a slew of racketeering and sex trafficking charges involving six different women is being held in federal prison in Chicago, where he also faces federal and state charges.
His Brooklyn federal trial is set to begin first in September, but may not happen at that time because of the impact of coronavirus closures on federal courts.
In a motion filed Wednesday, the federal prosecution team said that having jurors eat lunch away from the public and be accompanied in and out of the courthouse by US Marshals will safeguard them and the integrity of the trial.
Steve Greenberg, an attorney for Kelly, said the singer’s legal team agrees with some aspects of the request, such as jurors being kept away from the public when inside and around the courthouse.
“We don’t want them when they enter and leave the building when they go to lunch or walk outside for fresh air to be exposed to the influences of the Me Too movement,” he told CNN.
But he disagrees with keeping information about what area jurors are from and where they work from the defense team.
“The idea that R Kelly is going to do anything while his case is pending to intimidate jurors or threaten jurors like some 1950s mobster is ludicrous,” Greenberg told CNN. “I’ve done cases with anonymous juries. But we, as his lawyers ,should certainly know where the jurors are from, what they do for a living. The idea of jury selection is that you have some idea of whom you’re selecting.”
Prosecutors have alleged in court filings that Kelly, during a 2008 state trial in Illinois, persuaded multiple people to make false testimonies before a grand jury.
He faced state child pornography charges in that case and was acquitted. Now he faces a federal indictment there on charges he conspired to intimidate victims and conceal evidence in an effort to obstruct law enforcement.
It is unclear if Kelly’s Brooklyn federal trial will begin in late September, as it is currently scheduled, because coronavirus concerns have kept federal courthouses proceedings largely scaled back.
Kelly’s attorney said his team has not had been able to prepare for trial because the federal prison where Kelly is being held has had lockdowns, preventing them from meeting with him in person.
“Mr. Kelly is doing awful. They just announced that they’re going to have another 30 days of complete lockdown (at the prison.) So we can’t prepare for trial at all in the current environment. Can’t talk for him except for a periodic phone call,” Greenberg said. “It’s a terrible situation.”
Kelly’s legal team has unsuccessfully requested he be released from prison while he awaits trial due to coronavirus concerns. Greenberg said Kelly was tested for coronavirus last month and tested negative.